John W. Eyster: One big reason to vote down BTC referendum
I was shocked to learn this week that the $4 million annual increase the Blackhawk Technical College is asking WE THE PEOPLE of the district to approve in the REFERENDUM on Tuesday, August 12, is a PERMANENT—NEVER-ENDING INCREASE in property taxes for the technical college district! Yes, NO SUNSET! NO END!!
I have been drifting along with general approval of the referendum on the basis of the need argument by proponents for the referendum. What I have NOT YET FOUND is specific documentation from ANY of the proponents of the referendum that this is a PERMANENT—NO SUNSET $4 million/year INCREASE in property taxes for BTC! Such referenda usually have a SUNSET because they are for specific projects. School districts seeking resources to build facilities, expand or update computer systems, so when they are PAID FOR the tax levy is reduced. The sunset for such referenda are usually 3—5 years. TRUTH BE TOLD: THE BTC REFERENDUM has NO such SUNSET! I will NOT support this kind of PERMANENT FUNDING INCREASE!
Did YOU notice the report in the Gazette's feature, “'Go the other direction'” (Sunday, August 3, 2014)? “The referendum to boost the school's operational levy, the first referendum of its kind for technical colleges in the state.” I think it is important that the article specifies, “Previously, schools had only asked for capital improvement funding during referendums that paid for specific projects.” These referendums had a SUNSET—COMPLETION when the specific project was paid for!
I urge you to read the REFERENDUM QUESTION which we are asked to vote on, “Shall the revenue included in the budget of Blackhawk Technical College District, Wisconsin for the 2014-2015 school year and thereafter be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 38.16, Wisconsin Statutes, by $4,000,000 a year, for recurring purposes consisting of paying the cost of increased educational offerings, expanded support services, water utility service for the Central Campus and other operational expenses of the District?” This is CARTE BLANCHE for the BTC administration! NO WAY!
I am going to vote, “NO” on the BTC referendum on Wednesday, August 12! How are YOU going to vote?
This is a key issue for me, but the PRINCIPLE ISSUE, which I have argued previously, is: Technical College boards are NOT elected, but still levy taxes directly! This is, "NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!” I thought that principle was BUILT INTO OUR SYSTEM after the American Revolution which emphasized the issue of “No taxation without representation.” NOT here in WI—we have technical college boards authorize to levy taxes for technical colleges that are NOT elected. THEY ARE APPOINTED and NOT amenable to ANYONE!
The members of the BTC BOARD are APPOINTED by the CHAIRS of the Rock County and Green County Boards because the BTC district covers ROCK & GREEN counties. The members of the board are specifically categorized to provide the different interested in the technical college. NOT WE THE PEOPLE, rather, the system. These boards are PUPPETS of the ADMINISTRATION of the technical college board. Did YOU notice the UNANIMOUS APPROVAL of the BTC budget? Did YOU notice the UNANIMOUS APPROVAL of the BTC REFERENDUM? Where is the honest critique of the recommendations of the BTC administration?
I have long been an advocate of the ELECTION of technical college boards or some other provision for the tax levy to be SUBJECT TO ELECTED OFFICIALS. The UW system, for example, is subject to the WI State Legislature's vote for tax levies. Some school districts in WI are subject to local municipal boards OR they are governed by an ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD like Janesville, Milton, Edgerton, Clinton, Beloit.
I want those who LEVY TAXES to be SUBJECT to election by WE THE PEOPLE! Do YOU?
It is IMPORTANT to tell the BTC BOARD “NO!” Redraw the REFERENDUM with a SUNSET—END DATE and add SPECIFICS! There are too many LOOSE-ENDS in this referendum for me to approve. What do YOU think?
John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Whitewater and an advocate for Project Citizen, a model curriculum for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.